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Cleanup underway after tornado strikes downtown Cadott Tuesday night

CADOTT — Holly Craker stepped outside her home Wednesday morning to discover 10 people already cleaning up the mess left behind from Tuesday night’s tornado. She didn’t know any of the volunteers.

“They are kind of coming from everywhere,” Craker said. “It was all acts of kindness. We were blessed. It just gives me goose bumps.”

Craker said her family got home at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, perhaps 10 minutes before the tornado struck town.

“We came outside and watched the sky just turn black,” Craker said. “My husband was able to get a picture of it funneling above the church. We ran into the basement and hid under the stairs.”

The Crakers have three children, including a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old.

“We prayed loud, and just tried to sing to the kids,” she said. “With the kids crying, we really didn’t hear anything.”

The storm didn’t last long, she added. When they stepped outside, they saw numerous downed trees and damage ranging from a broken window, dings on their siding, and damage to their car.

“We had to wait until morning to see what the real damage was,” Craker said.

The tornado that struck Cadott ripped part of the roof off St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, knocked down power lines and trees, and caused relatively minor damage to numerous homes.

Todd Krause with the National Weather Service said the tornado had a rating of zero, with winds reaching 85 mph, which is the highest a tornado can be before reaching a rating of 1. The tornado caused damage over 2.9 miles, Krause said.

Cadott Police Chief Louis Eslinger was thankful that no fatalities or injuries occurred. He said power was restored throughout the village by 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. There was damage to homes, businesses and Cadott High School, including trees that fell on the outfield fence of the baseball field.

Anyone who seeks to volunteer should report to the Cadott Fire Station, 436 E. Hartford St. Brush, which was headed to a landfill, needs to be separated from metal, glass and construction materials, he said. Dumpsters were being brought in for the debris, he said.

By Wednesday morning, the streets were packed with volunteers who showed up to clean up the mess.

“It’s been chain saws since the break of dawn; just nonstop,” Craker said.

Steve Bremness was among the volunteers. Bremness, a Boyd resident, showed up in his empty pickup truck, ready to load it and haul away trees.

“I saw (the damage) on TV. I was born and raised in Cadott, and I decided I had to help out,” Bremness said. “It just needed to be done.”

John Hoel, a Stanley Public Works Department employee, said he and two of his co-workers showed up with his city’s skid steer, a dump truck and a trailer to haul away brush. Hoel said he and his co-workers didn’t hesitate to help out.

“If we had the same issue in our city, we’d sure appreciate the help,” Hoel said. “It’s pretty amazing how many people are here. It’s great to see.”

Chris Jakubowicz lives between Boyd and Stanley, but her mom lived on a block where several homes sustained damage. Jakubowicz showed up at the family home Wednesday and was relieved to see just minor damage to playground in the yard. However, she said she was brought to tears watching the steady stream of volunteers help out neighbors that weren’t as lucky.

“It’s emotional,” Jakubowicz said. “I got here and I just couldn’t stop crying. We don’t know half these people. They’ve been filling the trailers as fast as they empty them.”

Jakubowicz’ sister, Sue Sedlacek of the town of Lafayette, echoed those thoughts.

“All these people came together. It’s just what Cadott does,” Sedlacek said.

Jim Couey lives across the street from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. He’s lived in his home since 1981, and he watched the storm develop Tuesday night.

“I saw branches coming off my neighbor’s big tree, and I told my wife, ‘let’s get in the basement,’” Couey said.

The roof on the north side of his home was lifted, but not torn off. Like his neighbor, Craker, he said the storm ended fairly quickly.

“We took several walks around the yard, finding stuff as we walked,” Couey said. “We had a lot of debris in our yard from the church. We’re lucky some of the church stuff didn’t hit our windows.”

Couey also had assistance from his brother and others Wednesday morning.

“I had a lot of friends come help me out,” Couey said.

Dan Williams handles the maintenance at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. A portion of the church’s roof was ripped off completely, but none of the stained-glass windows were damaged. He said numerous people showed up Tuesday night to remove valued items or place tarps on the damaged roof.

“I’m just thankful no one was injured,” Williams said. “I’m shocked, being as it’s right downtown Cadott.”

Jamf goes public: Eau Claire-born company begins trading on Nasdaq

A software company born in Eau Claire made its debut Wednesday on the Nasdaq stock exchange and began trading higher than it was expected to fetch on its first day.

Jamf, whose executives and employees are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, rang a virtual opening bell on the stock exchange with images of them appearing on a billboard outside the Nasdaq building in New York.

“It’s a momentous day for Jamf,” said Jason Wudi, the company’s chief technology officer.

Currently the business’ longest-tenured employee, he has been with Jamf since 2006, seeing it grow as a small startup to the global company it has become.

Worldwide, the company has 1,300 employees — 300 of them working in Eau Claire, where the company occupies an office building next to Phoenix Park.

For many months the company has been making preparations to go public, Wudi said, which Jamf views as its best path to continue to invest, grow and support customers in the growing market of software related to Apple products.

“Being public answers the question of is Jamf going to continue to do what it is doing,” he said.

The company makes, sells and supports software that manages Apple-brand devices — iPhones, iPads and Mac computers — used by businesses, educational institutions, health care providers and other workplaces. Its customer base has continued growing, even through the COVID-19 pandemic, and had exceeded more than 40,000 by the end of June. Apple, the top 10 largest U.S. banks and many companies that rank high on the Fortune 500 are among Jamf’s customers, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that announced the company’s intent to go public.

Jamf, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, had expected to get $26 per share for its initial public offering, but opened $20 higher than that on Wednesday morning.

The share price peaked early in the day’s trading at $51 before fervor over the new stock settled down. It fell to a low of $35.85 per share in the afternoon, but grew back slightly to close the day’s trading at $39.20.

In the days leading up to the initial public offering, expectations for the stock price had risen. Last week Jamf had forecast shares would be bought between $17 and $19, according to a filing with the SEC. On Monday, that had grown to $21 to $23.

Originally the company planned to offer 16 million shares but then decided to increase to 18 million shares. Of those, 13.5 million shares were offered by Jamf itself with the remaining 4.5 million from its existing shareholders.

Jamf expected net proceeds of about $319.7 million from shares the company sold in the IPO, according to a news release. Of that, $205 million would be used to pay off existing debt, the company stated in an SEC filing. The rest would be for general corporate purposes, including working capital.

“We may also use a portion of our net proceeds to acquire or invest in complementary businesses, products, services or technologies. However, we do not have agreements or commitments for any acquisitions or investments at this time,” stated a filing made by Jamf to the SEC.

Jamf was founded in 2002 by Zach Halmstad and joined by co-founder Chip Pearson the following year. Halmstad led Jamf as the company grew and became a larger player in the software industry, but he stepped away from it a few years ago. Dean Hager was hired to be CEO in June 2015 and continues to lead the company.

Texas-based private equity firm Vista Equity Partners acquired a majority share in Jamf in 2017 for $733.8 million. Vista will remain in control of the company, owning about three-quarters of its outstanding common stock, according to a filing with the SEC.

3rd Eau Claire resident dies of COVID-19; new cases plateau slightly

A third Eau Claire County resident has died of the novel coronavirus, Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese said Wednesday. The person was older than 65 and had underlying health conditions.

It is the second COVID-19-related death of a county resident announced this week.

The county’s second death was announced Monday, a woman under 50 with underlying health conditions who had been hospitalized with the virus and died Saturday.

The county’s first death from COVID-19 was confirmed June 22. That person was also older than 65 and had underlying health conditions.

Three deaths in the county spur “some significant negative impacts,” Giese said Wednesday at a news conference, referring to local health care capability. “We need to keep the progression slow so the impact, like a death or hospitalization, is as minimal as possible.”

For the first time on Wednesday, the Health Department announced how many county residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19: 21 people, or about 5% of the county’s 409 cases, have been hospitalized with the virus at some point.

It’s below the state average. Nine percent of the state’s nearly 45,000 COVID-19 cases have required hospitalization, and about 2% have undergone intensive care, according to the state Department of Health Services.

The number of county residents who have been hospitalized — 21 — doesn’t include residents of other counties who are hospitalized in the Eau Claire area, Giese noted.

Local cases ‘plateau a bit’

The county reported two new cases of the virus Wednesday. The county’s total has hit 409 cases, 351 of which have recovered.

Case increases have slowed somewhat since Sunday, interrupting a trend of 10-plus new cases per day.

“Our rapidly increasing case numbers have plateaued a bit,” Giese said. “That’s a good sign. We’re still getting many new cases ... but we aren’t getting the big spikes and big increases in numbers.”

Some countywide metrics that were in the red last week are looking better as of Wednesday.

According to data compiled Monday, the number of new cases in the last two weeks is down by 12% compared to new cases during the two weeks before that. (Last Monday, that same metric was up by 51%.)

The county’s test-positivity rate — or the percentage of all its COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is also down, 3.7% this week compared to 5.3% last week.

But one important metric is trending the wrong way. Nearly half of all county residents with COVID-19, 43%, told contact tracers they didn’t know where they could have contracted the virus, and that they hadn’t had contact with a known case.

It’s the first time the percentage of “community spread” cases has gone up since late June, when it hovered around 35% for several weeks.

That increase means that the Health Department is considering Eau Claire County a place with “strong community spread,” Giese said.

County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks have reported an average of four close contacts, according to county data.

Countywide order to stay the same

A new countywide order will go into effect after midnight Thursday, but it is identical to the previous order — no restrictions on gatherings and social distancing will change, Giese said.

The order doesn’t require people to wear masks in public, but the Health Department is “working through what a potential (mask) mandate might look like” with county and city officials, Giese said.

“My real goal is to have a very high percentage of people in this community that understand if we want … to not have the kind of outcomes we’re seeing in places like Florida and Texas right now, that this is a strategy that’s been shown to work,” Giese said of wearing masks in public spaces.

In the new order, businesses will still be required to consider mask policies, and businesses must operate at maximum 50% capacity. Businesses that must post occupancy are restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, courtrooms and gyms.

For public gatherings, the limits are still 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. The order does strongly discourage events with more than 50 people.

The Health Department’s COVID-19 call center can be reached at 715-831-7425.